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Plant closures, conversion to gas driving Israel’s planned retirement of coal by 2026

ISRAEL’S STRATEGY for ending the use of coal power centers on plant closures and the conversion of others to run on natural gas, an Israeli energy official said last week.

Israel plans to stop using coal in power generation by 2026, according to Israel’s Director General of Energy Ehud Adiri at a briefing about Israel’s plan to transition to natural gas and renewables. The Israeli embassy has invited journalists in the Philippines to participate.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi announced last week a ban on all new coal-fired projects.

Israel’s decision to reduce coal usage was made in 2015, Mr. Adiri said. Two years later, the Israeli government approved the closure of four coal-fired units of the Hadera Power plant, which currently has an installed capacity of 144 megawatts.

“In 2012 60% of our electricity was produced by coal. In 2020, we decreased more than 50% of our coal usage… What we are doing is shutting down some of the coal power plants and converting others to natural gas,” he said, citing Ministry of Energy data.

He added that the department was also looking into “improving coal plant technology that will reduce air pollution.”

In 2019, Israel’s energy mix stood at 30% coal, 64% natural gas, and 5% renewables. By 2026, Israel’s target is 0% coal, 78% natural gas and 22% renewables, according to the Ministry of Energy.

“If we can say it in one sentence, we want as much renewables as possible. No coal, no diesel, no fuel, and all the rest, natural gas,” he said.

In August, Bloomberg reported that Israeli solar energy and renewable power storage stocks outperformed oil and gas producers.

Aside from investing in renewables, Mr. Adiri said that Israel is planning to invest $20 billion in renewables and storage in the coming years. He added that Israel offers investment opportunities in natural gas and electricity sectors, and is seeking cooperation with other countries as well.

In a separate online briefing last week, Mr. Cusi said the Department of Energy is looking into incorporating “clean coal technology” in its future projects.

However, he said that coal cannot be fully eliminated from the Philippines’ power supply mix at the moment.

“Ang sinasabi natin dito sa policy ng enerhiya, we are going to do what is good for our country. Hindi na ‘yung sabihin itigil ng coal, saan tayo kukuha ng (energy), sa impyerno? Mahirap iyon. (We are going to do what’s good for our country in terms of energy policy. We can’t say that we should stop coal. Where are we going to source energy? From hell? That would be difficult),” Mr. Cusi said.

Sherwin T. Gatchalian, the chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Economic Affairs, urged the government to maximize the potential of renewable energy following the global health emergency.

“Now is the time to give renewable energy sources a boost as recent months have shown an increase in the generation of some power sources such as solar, geothermal, and biomass,” Mr. Gatchalian said in a statement on Saturday.

While he supports the Energy Department’s coal moratorium, he said that the policy must be accompanied by regulations that promote the building of flexible systems, including energy storage. — Angelica Y. Yang

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